It’s About Time to Celebrate.. the Dead That Is

By: Lisa Coleman

It’s about that time of year in Mexico… yep, let the celebrations begin! Let’s take the beaches and crowds out of the picture and look into the heart and soul of the culture. It’s far more interesting anyway! People who don’t travel much are a bit uneasy about attending traditonal celebrations, but put those fears aside. The Mexican people honor their culture and embrace visitors who want to share in the experience. So take a step into the unknown and become a part of their world… I know you will enjoy it!

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is right around the corner in early November, so if you want to be a part of it, you will need to book very, very early. It’s a big deal in Mexico and it might be tough to find rooms in some of the more popular spots.

The celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of Dead) is one of Mexico’s most fascinating traditions. It embraces a complex heritage and demonstrates the significance of family and ancestry. The origins of this unusual ceremony can be found in 8th century Europe. In an attempt to replace a 2000-year old Celtic tradition of celebrating the harvest and the New Year on November 1, the Catholic Church established this date as “All Saints Day” to honor martyrs and saints. At the end of the first millennium, the church designated November 2 as “All Souls Day” to honor the dead.

In Mexico, these two days are a time of celebration. It’s a time when the souls of the departed return to the world of the living to meet again with their friends and family. The first Day of the Dead, on November 1, is usually reserved for the souls of children, the little angels (angelitos). On November 2, the primary celebration takes place to honor the adults. Preparation for these days begins weeks in advance. Candies, breads, skulls and skeletons made of sugar and other delicacies are prepared to offer to “Los Muertos” (the dead). These are considered gifts and tokens of love for the souls. Along with hundreds of marigolds and other brightly colored flower wreaths, these feasts are set forth in homes and cemeteries throughout Mexico. Some families prepare extravagant altars at the gravesite and all light candles and place a piece of memorabilia at the cemetery. The families eat, drink, pray and hold vigils through the night for their loved ones. They take this moment to appreciate the importance of living and to respect and love those who have moved to another world.

Day of the Dead celebrations can be seen throughout Mexico with some of the most impressive festivities taking place in the state of Oaxaca, Mixquic near Mexico City and in Patzcuaro and on the Island of Janitzio (both in the state of Michoacan). Personally, I like the smaller places. There is a magical town about two hours out of Veracruz called Naolinco. Located in the Chiconquiaco mountain range, this town was once a settlement for the ancient Totonac people. You won’t find many tourists and you will really have a chance to immerse yourself in the event. It has an unbelievable spirit and engery that will be well worth the effort to get there. Do some googling and you’ll find a few hotels in the area. Witnessing a celebration of this kind is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

* There are also a number of tour operators that offer all-inclusive trips for the event. Check that out on Google too.